May 06, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
There will be no new Circa restaurant location at Eric Burrell’s building at 4 Chenango St. — and maybe not even an extension of his office space to grow his business if his neighbors have their way.
Burrell has withdrawn his application to the village for a requested zone change for his office building in order to build an extension and house the popular local restaurant that needs a new location, it was announced at the May 5 meeting of the village board.
Burrell still plans to build an extension to his building but for office space only and not for a restaurant, and he therefore has amended his zone change request accordingly. The Chenango Street neighbors who opposed the restaurant proposal also spoke out at the meeting to oppose the office extension idea, with a lawyer for one of the neighbors saying it would be a non-conforming use and therefore cannot be allowed.
Burrell’s announcement, as well as his description of his new plans, was discussed during a public hearing on the issue which lasted for about an hour and was attended by about 80 people.
“I appreciate that there were so many people in the community that supported the Circa move, but we listened to the neighbors and have heard them say that a restaurant would be unbearable,” Burrell said. “I still support Alicyn [Hart] and will help her find a better location than she’s in now.”
Burrell’s proposal — officially submitted to the village planning board by Burrell’s company, Pro-Tel Properties II, LLC — was first brought before the village board in January, when he unveiled his plan to build a two-level, 2,500 square-foot addition to the back of his building and have Circa move into the first floor. Circa has been located at 76 Albany St. for the past eight years, but Hart, who leases the 1,200-square-foot space, said she and her landlord could not agree on a new lease agreement so she will move her restaurant to another location by the end of May.
To accomplish the project, Burrell requested a zone change from the current R-10 Residential District zoning to a planned development (PD) zone. The village board referred the zone change application to the planning board for a recommendation.
The Chenango and Mill street neighbors, however, attended meetings and wrote letters voicing numerous concerns about the potential neighborhood impact of the restaurants lights, noise, parking and traffic issues and even garbage. Neighbor Helen Stacy retained local attorney Paul Curtin to represent her and make her concerns especially known.
In March, the village planning board voted 3-1 to offer a negative recommendation to the village board on the zone change application. The planning board’s decision is only a non-binding recommendation; the village board has the final say, and they were expected to vote on the issue at their May 5 meeting. Instead Mayor Kurt Wheeler announced to the room full of spectators that Burrell had withdrawn his request for the restaurant and instead would seek to add on more office space for his business, which is also located in the building.
“There was just enough community pressure that I didn’t want to … I have a business to run. I need this addition,” he said.
Burrell said the addition would be essentially the same as previously proposed, but instead of porches and outdoor patio he will enclose the entire addition. He also remains committed to seek an easement for the trails and Chittenango Creek access on his property that local residents currently use, even though it is his private property.
“I’d love to get an easement so I don’t have to incur the insurance liability I have now,” he said.
During the public comment portion of the hearing, numerous neighbors reiterated their opposition to the proposed zone change, saying that even without a restaurant moving in, Burrell’s proposed project is an inappropriate use of the lot and does not conform to the village Comprehensive Plan.
Attorney Curtin said that legally the change is a non-conforming use of the lot because it is in a residential zone. “This land use technique is inappropriate for this proposed business,” he said. “We are not … anti-growth, anti-business, anti-planning; we are for proper planning.”
Mayor Kurt Wheeler, who chaired the Comprehensive Plan committee when it was created, said he felt compelled to comment about the many references as to whether Burrell’s proposal was or was not in-line with the Comprehensive Plan.
“I would encourage everyone to read the entire plan,” he said. “It’s been painful for me to watch the little snippets taken out of the Comprehensive Plan and taken out of context [during discussions].”
Hart also spoke during the public comment period, thanked everyone who supported her and called it “unfortunate” that Burrell was put in a position where he had to change his project plans. She also chided people who complained about the aesthetics of Burrell’s proposed office expansion on Chenango Street when so many Albany Street buildings are deteriorating and becoming eyesores and embarrassments for the village’s main street. “I for one don’t want to be a part of that,” she said.
The village board voted unanimously to continue the public hearing on Burrell’s zone change request until its June meeting; they also voted unanimously to refer Burrell’s amended proposal to the village planning board for review and recommendation.
As for the future of Circa, after the meeting Hart said her current lease expires May 31 and Circa will be open at least until then, although she is trying to negotiate a three-month extension before she has to vacate the building.
In the meantime, she is continuing to search for a new location for her restaurant.
“I plan to stay in Caz, but I plan to find a better fit for myself. If that happens in Caz, then great, although it seems that I have very little control on that process,” she said.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.
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